The Martian (2015)
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Matt Damon; Sean Bean; Jessica Chastain; Jeff Daniels; Mackenzie Davis; Chiwetel Ejiofor; Donald Glover; Aksel Hennie; Kate Mara; Michael Peña; Sebastian Stan; Kristen Wiig; Benedict Wong.
Plot: During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.
Ridley Scott’s 20th Century Fox silver screen adaptation of Andy Weir’s well received sci-fi novel, ‘The Martian’, contains one of the best Matt Damon performances in years and could even be a return to form for its controversial director.
The Martian is no less than an ensemble film. Stars such as Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig and even Chiwetel Ejiofor are presented as bit-part players to this character driven piece headlined by Matt Damon. In this respect, the movie has a lot going for it. Whether you’re into the awkward intelligence of Donald Glover, the leadership of Jeff Daniels or the now somewhat trademarked comedy talents of Michael Peña, The Martian seems to offer a bit of everything. Jessica Chastain especially, although underutilised, lives up to her billing as an actress with an artistic and critically successful back catalogue through a level of performance that provokes feeling at the movie’s most important moments, lifting the film to seemingly new heights. But, it is in the presentation of Matt Damon’s performance that the film truly excels.
Damon is given the task of leading the film for almost the entirety of the film’s 2 hours plus run-time, and he delivers what could be one of the best performances of his career. Funny, likeable, and layered, Damon offers the sort of performance that critics of the actor have been calling for since Good Will Hunting (1997): identifiability. In this respect, he well and truly pulls it out of the bag. It was important to the movie that he did too, as his character is the only presence that the audience needs to feel a degree of empathy for, and without such an intriguing and surprisingly likeable portrayal of the lead character, the movie would have fell on its face. Of course, this performance is guided by the great material that was at his finger tips, but Damon still deserves special recognition for one of the performances of his career and its importance to the overall reception of this sci-fi dramady.
The film’s director Ridley Scott must also be credited with being able to bring out such a performance in his star, as well as his ability to mix so many recognisable names into the film and not water down the quality or the overarching message. Even through such an ensemble, Andy Weir’s award-winning writing is given the opportunity to shine through in all of its humorous ways, and this is partly down to the way Scott structured the film. In its most important moments we are brought down from the humorous nature of the protagonist’s existence alone on Mars with a harsh blow that drives home the risk of the story; something that truly highlights why Weir’s work was so successful in the first place and is utilised to boost The Martian beyond that of any ordinary sci-fi film. Visually, the film also excels; it’s certainly one to be marvelled at. The space craft are fantastic and the locations used for the scenes on Mars couldn’t be any more accurate if the filmmakers had CGI’d the actual Mars on to the backdrop of every scene. The mixture of props and CGI become second nature and at once become unrecognisable from one another, making the surface of Mars seem as natural as Nasa’s Earth base; something that I feel truly highlights the quality of the computer graphics used in this film.
Despite all of this great work across the board, The Martian still fails to truly engage in such a way that has you on the edge of your seat with regard to whether the protagonist shall survive or perish. In fact, it seems almost as if this risk was set to the back of the filmmaker’s mind in favour of identifiability and humour. This makes the film seem overly long while simultaneously creating the feeling that the vast majority of the action scenes are worthless. In this respect, The Martian leaves a somewhat bitter taste in your mouth courtesy of expecting just a little bit more as the film unfolds.
Think of The Martian as more of a Guardians of the Galaxy sci-fi film than an Alien or Prometheus. It’s funny, well produced, directed and acted, but it’s not going to make you question your existence or cause you to leave a mark in the edge of your seat. That’s why it receives a…